Sunday, March 25, 2007


Movie of the week:

This movie gets the little old gray-haired lady seal of approval.

What is that, you ask? I first saw this movie years ago, shortly after it came out on video - certainly not in the theater, movies like this never never play in my town - or the next town over - or the one after that either. I rented several movies that day, and when I brought the tapes (Hey! Remember tapes?) up to the counter, the young girl girl singled this tape out of the pile and said, "Oh my god! This movie is sooooooooo good! You're going to love it." (No, she didn't have gray hair - I'm getting to that.) So I took it home and watched it, and she was right. It was good.

I've recommended this film to lots of different people over the years without any bad reviews. It came up in conversation again just recently and I decided to feature it here. I wanted to watch it again to refresh my memory of it, so I went where I usually go to get instant movie gratification - the public library. I took my selections up to the circulation desk to check out (as usual, I found a handful of good stuff). The little old gray-haired lady, who had to be at least 80, looked through my selection, which included some great old classics, and singled out PRISCILLA. She stared at it for a few seconds, her mind replaying bits of the movie. Finally, she tapped one bony finger on the DVD case, let out a long sigh, " ......aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. This film is won-der-ful! It's so good, you're really going to love it! It's a beautiful film!" She assured me no less than 4 times before I left the library. And thus was created the "Little Old Gray-Haired Lady Seal of Approval."

Oddly enough, this isn't the sort of movie I would have expected to receive this status. It's essentially a "road" picture. That is, three friends travel through the Outbacks of Australia in a bus nicknamed "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". You're probably thinking of all the possible plot hooks here, but remember, this is NOT a Hollywood film. A Hollywood studio would sensationalize this story in order to sell tickets. So, the following Hollywood-type premises have absolutely nothing to do with this story.
  1. They are attacked by cannibalistic mutants, evolved because of the hole in the ozone layer. The bus becomes both their refuge and their weapon in their fight for survival. But then they run out of gas ........
  2. They travel from small town to small town, village to village to rob banks. They're folk heroes, of a sort, dubbed "the Pink Gang". They've never actually had to kill anybody, but one day an over-zealous bank guard changes all that. Can they stay one step ahead of the law in the Outback?
  3. They are out to explore the caves of the Outback. In one they find more than they bargained for. Before they can back out without waking the "thing" lying dormant there, a cave-in traps them, and now the "thing" is awake.
  4. They're drug dealers, looking for the ultimate high. The legendary pink blossom known as "Priscilla" (hence the dual meaning of the name), supposedly creates the perfect euphoria, and is reported to grow deep in the Outback. If they find it, they can score big and become rich. But will they, themselves, fall victim to its allure, and will the indigenous people allow them to take it just like that?
  5. A priest and a rabbi and a monk travel the Outback competing against each other for the souls of those who live there. They're all good friends but as the competition heats up, and the dirty tricks begin, can their friendship survive? Contains the improbable line, as the walk into a pub together, the bartender says, "What is this, some kind of joke?"
  6. Two female impersonators and one transsexual put on glitzy costumes and lip-sync to ABBA - across the Outback. They're on their way to Perth to put on a big show. Features a lively ABBA soundtrack. Is in no way related to the musical Mamma Mia, also based on ABBA's music.
  7. Three college coeds embark on a journey of sexual awakening and strive to commune with nature ................ and get as drunk as they possibly can. They find that nature doesn't want to commune back. In their frustration, they totally annoy the crap out of the locals who ask them to please be on your way and sexually awake somewhere else if you don't mind.
  8. Two hobbits and one dwarf are off on a bus in search of a Lord of the Rings convention. The three friends remain in convention costume throughout and amazingly enough, find themselves in a real life Middle-Earth type adventure. Can they defend the village against a marauding band of poachers (orcs)?
  9. Three researchers from the department of archeology at the University of Sydney, drive off in a bus into the Outback to investigate rumors that a long dead ancient civilization may not be as long dead as everybody thinks. They are, in fact still secretly thriving, deep in the back lands, guarding a very important artifact -------- from space!
  10. "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" is one of the entries in the annual "Across the Outback Road Race". The three friends must drive around the clock and negotiate the dangerous terrain to edge out the competition. Lunacy and hilarity ensue.
Oh dear. It seems I lied about #6. That is indeed what this film is about (I bet you thought it less probable than several of the others). Ok, that's kinda funky. How does get to pass the Little Old gray-Haired Lady test? The film doesn't spend a lot of time dwelling on what they do rather than who they are. The story is about the friendship between these three men (?), and their camaraderie along the way. There is no sex between the men (?), that's not the basis of their relationship, nor is there any sex between the men (?) and anyone they come across. There's real comedy and also real drama, and when the men do put on their show, it seems logical and right.

The movie is about opposites. There are the opposites of men and the women they portray. There's the opposite of glittery costumes against the bleak backdrop of the Outback. There is also the opposites of the characters and the actors that portray them. The film stars Terence Stamp as Bernadette, the transsexual. He is a veteran movie actor and always plays strong male roles. Hugo Weaving plays Mitzi del Bra, the leader of the trio. It's his ex-wife they are traveling cross country to visit. He is most notably known as Agent Smith in the Matrix films, and for a go-gillion other roles, from Elrond in The Lord of the Rings, to V in V for Vendetta. Guy Pearce plays Felicia Jollygoodfellow, the young "pretty one. You may remember from such films as Memento, The Proposition, and LA Confidential. I think that seeing these actors in these roles adds to the visual absurdity of the film, along with the colorful outlandish costumes.

This whole premise would possibly go horribly wrong if one tried to capitalize on the lunatic fringe concept by exaggerating the stereotypes - but they don't. The men are real men (except for Bernadette), with real emotions. The Aborigines don't stare aghast when the men put on their act. The simple Outback folk that they come across are not ignorant rubes, and extend their hospitality even to such as these men. It is, in short, a feel-good movie that promotes positive social values. Hence the little old gray-haired lady testimonial.

"It's so funny you'll laugh so hard your lashes will curl all by themselves."



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